Preschool Program Fadeout: Understanding Impact Persistence and Heterogeneity
Thursday, November 12, 2015: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Brickell South (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Jade Marcus Jenkins, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Panel Chairs: Adam Winsler, George Mason University
Discussants: William Gormley, Georgetown University
A consistent and worrisome finding across early childhood interventions is that initial treatment effects fade over time, with children not receiving the intervention catching up to children who did. The papers in this interdisciplinary panel will inform this phenomenon by developing an understanding of when, why and for whom short-term gains from preschool may disappear and how policy can support preschool effect persistence into elementary school.
The first two papers examine whether teacher practices in elementary school prevent fadeout. Jenkins et al. use two experimental studies of preschool—Head Start and Building Blocks mathematics intervention—to test whether the quality of instruction (i.e., basic and advanced content) and professional supports for early grades teachers to coordinate instruction, moderate the impacts of preschool on later cognitive skills. Better instructional quality did not mitigate fadeout during elementary school. However, when preschool was coupled with teacher professional supports, this eliminated fadeout between kindergarten and first grade.
The second paper furthers our understanding of the potential mechanisms by which teachers are able to build on preschool gains. Using data from the Voluntary Pre-K experiment in Tennessee paired with unique, item level classroom observation data of teachers’ instruction, planning, and classroom environment, Hofer et al. will examine these factors are associated with pre-K effect persistence.
The next two papers turn from understanding sustaining mechanisms to examining the specific subgroups for whom effects are sustained. Smith estimates differences between black and white students in the impact of Oklahoma’s universal Pre-K (UPK) program on teenage criminal activity. Using administrative data and a regression discontinuity design, he leverages the birthdate cutoff for UPK eligibility in the program’s first year. He finds a significant negative impact of UPK on the likelihood that a black child is later charged with a misdemeanor or felony, but no impact on the likelihood of later charges for white children.
The last paper examines the effects of Florida’s pre-K program on the educational outcomes by students’ English proficiency status in Miami-Dade County public schools. Conger et al. estimate the effect of publicly-funded pre-K attendance on students’ likelihood of: (1) being promoted to first grade on time; (2) remaining in the same school between kindergarten and first grade; and (3) exiting English Language Learner (ELL) status between kindergarten and first grade. They find that although ELL children benefit from pre-K—which also saves costs from special ELL services—all children experience important academic and school stability advantages.
Adam Winsler, Professor of Education at George Mason University will serve as chair of the session, and William Gormley, Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University, as the discussant. The paper authors represent 11 different institutions and different ethnicities, disciplinary backgrounds, and gender, and include students, post-docs, and junior and senior faculty.
Public preschool is expanding rapidly. However, research has not addressed whether the benefits of preschool persist. Without a better understanding of preschool impact fadeout, public programs have little chance to meaningfully close long-run achievement gaps. Our panel represents research on the cutting-edge of this evidence base.